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Bough House

A Former Hilltop Studio Is Transformed Into An Open-air Pavilion

March 18, 2007|Barbara Thornburg






When his son was 8 years old, the current homeowner, a real estate developer with an eye for architectural properties, promised his son a treehouse. Nine years later he finally got one.

The teenage son's hangout is the hilltop studio of renowned midcentury architect Thornton Ladd. Designed in 1953, it complemented a 6,700-square-foot home just up the hill that Ladd had designed for his mom.

"At the time, it was one of the most talked-about homes in Southern California," says architect Leo Marmol, whose Los Angeles firm, Marmol Radziner + Associates, was called in to restore and upgrade the vintage property, which has dramatic views of both the Rose Bowl and the San Fernando Valley.

"The house design features a selection of patios, gardens and terraces, with each outdoor room a visual extension of an indoor space," says Marmol. "The amount of glass used at the time--in the house and Ladd's studio --was groundbreaking."

The studio is a lyrical composition of horizontal and vertical planes, floating slabs, trellises and a variety of geometric forms. Sixty percent of the perimeter walls are windows and doors made of 3/8-inch-thick tempered glass. The large doors run along an inner track, easily sliding to open the space to the surrounding hillsides, covered with eucalyptus and elm trees.

Exterior shade panels, made by sandwiching rice paper between two layers of safety glass, run along an outer track. Located at each end of the studio and along the long west wall, the shoji-esque screens ensure privacy. The exterior screens/panels now are motorized so that they can be operated by remote control. To offset so much glass, overhangs and sliding shades provide protection from the direct sun, while cross-ventilation provides natural cooling.

The architect transformed the former basement storage space into a bedroom and bathroom, which the owner's son now uses. To emphasize the connection to the outdoors, two pivot doors open onto a new cantilevered cedar deck outside the bedroom. The larger of the two doors, made of glass with a hot-rolled steel frame, is nearly 7 feet wide and weighs a hefty 700 pounds. The designers used aircraft-quality, stainless-steel hinges to support the weight.


Percentage of glass: 60%

Glazing: 3/8-inch-thick tempered glass

Highlight: steel-frame pivot doors


Architect's Advice: "The level of the finished floor plays a very important role in getting the view you want. . . .We often take a ladder to the site, build a scaffold or bring in a cherry picker so clients can see the exact view they want. If there's an existing house, you can always climb up on the roof."--Leo Marmol



Architect: Leo Marmol, Marmol Radziner+Associates, Los Angeles, (310) 826-6222, Fabrication: All door and window frames were custom-fabricated by Marmol Radziner+Associates. All windows and doors (except for shade panels) are 3/8-inch-thick, non-insulated, fully tempered glass by Geisler's Glass, Chatsworth, (818) 717-9820.

Living room (east wall entrance): one fixed window and two sliders. Panels of ColorPro rice paper laminated glass by GLASPRO, Santa Fe Springs, (562) 946-7722. Mechanization of sliding screens by Don La Force Associates Inc., Rancho Dominguez, (800) 944-9495, Lineal metal (pre-cut frame pieces) by Dan's Custom Metal, Commerce, (323) 269-4312. Bedroom: Two floor-to-ceiling, custom hot-rolled steel pivot doors: steel by Dan's Custom Metal, stainless-steel hinges by Marmol Radziner+Associates. Bathroom: Custom hot-rolled steel fixed panel window.

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